UN calls attention to severe drought in Somalia

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On World Water Day, the United Nations humanitarian coordinator for Somalia called for special to attention to the needs of an estimated 2.4 million people in the Horn of Africa country who are in need of water and food aid as a result of a severe drought.

"I am extremely concerned about the impact of the current drought on the well-being of children, women and the general population in Somalia," said Mark Bowden, the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia.

"More than 50,000 people have already been displaced due to the drought. The recent escalation in conflict in south and central Somalia is further exacerbating suffering," said Mr. Bowden.

The drought has driven up food prices as scarcity worsens, exacerbating the rates of the malnutrition over the past six months, particularly in southern Somalia, where one in four children is acutely malnourished.

The conditions for internally displaced persons, who are already highly vulnerable, have become even harsher. Forecasts have predicted inadequate rainfall during the April to June rainy season, a development that could worsen food shortages particularly in the south-central regions.

UN humanitarian agencies and their partners have been helping residents of areas affected by drought with water, livelihood support and health and nutrition services. Approximately $50 million has been allocated from a pooled fund to the respond to the drought over the past three months.

"The United Nations is striving to alleviate the suffering in Somalia. However, so much more could be done with greater access. Access to populations in need is shrinking at the same time as their needs are expanding, particularly in the south, where 80 per cent of the people most in need live," said Mr. Bowden.

"Severe water shortages require collective efforts and further cooperation at all levels to deliver a well coordinated response to mitigate the consequences of the drought on the lives of the Somali population. The humanitarian community is ready to scale up response but needs support from all Somalis, both inside and outside the country. This is a collective responsibility. I urge all parties to the conflict to ensure greater humanitarian access to those in need," he added.

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